Keeping the Lights on in a Time of Uncertainty

The days may be getting shorter, but 2020 seemed very, very long. As people pick up the pieces from months of upheaval, electrical contractors are urgently helping America return to safe, productive environments.

COVID-19 placed unprecedented strain on the country. Building work ground to a halt, unemployment rose. Families everywhere faced the consequences.

Talk now is that economic and domestic uncertainty will continue and become a ‘new normal’, as if life is set to be this way for a while. Yet, nobody really knows. It’s finger in the air stuff at the moment. One thing we can count on, however, is that more people will need the help of IEC members to help deliver essential projects and improvements to help restart and grow the economy.

Forecasted supply and demand for electrical workers       

Growth starts from the ground up, and as companies get back on their feet, electrical workers will be there.
Even before COVID-19 reared its unwanted head, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected employment demand (bit.ly/2K1367W) for electricians to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations (4%) and construction trade workers (3%).

So, despite what we’ve been through, hard work and perseverance will be rewarded. I’ll come back to this point, but first let’s consider the bigger economic picture, and how it affects electrical contractors.

The 2007-2009 recession sparked more than 15 million job losses and although it took seven years for the unemployment rate to recover to pre-2009 levels, the long-term pattern in the labor force remained on a downward trajectory. The percentage of Americans out of work fell from more than 10% in 2009 to 4.1% in 2017 – but crucially, the labor force participation rate was still declining, even during this recovery.

And now, only a handful of years later, COVID-19 has caused unemployment figures to rise again – from 3.7% in August 2019, to 8.4% in August 2020 – set against this continued backdrop of labor shortage. The talk at present is of second waves, but the U.S. labor industry has already suffered a second wave of mass unemployment, causing renewed problems for electrical contractors.

Worryingly, 40% of contractors are rejecting new projects because of this shortage of skilled labor, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They simply don’t have the right people to do the job, causing the skills gap to widen further.

Couple this information with the rise of tariff-induced material costs and the cost of labor, 9% (bit.ly/2XqBg87) in the second quarter of 2020 alone, and suddenly the mountain seems unscalable.

But hey. Breathe. Although times are hard, it’s not all doom and gloom. Chinks of light are starting to shine through.

Non-residential building construction jobs, for example, are expected to increase 11% by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Looking to the future

As the tide begins to turn, businesses can benefit by making great hires and nurturing in-demand skill sets. In this respect, IEC plays an integral role. The association’s commitment to training a new generation of electrical workers will pay it forward for the entire industry.

With a record-breaking 13,588 new apprentices coming through IEC chapter training centers, these newly-qualified professionals could help expand your company’s capabilities.

As you plan your resourcing, you should also look for ways to achieve value for money in other customer-facing roles. This includes reception. Have you considered options that would allow you to reduce business overhead, while still providing a 5-star level of customer service (answerforce.com/blog/answerforce-reviews)?

Great service begins at the front lines, but it’s not always essential to hire in-house staff. Those hires can prove risky and costly, particularly when you’re prioritizing greater investment in electrical contracting skills.

A 24/7 reception service can be outsourced, whether in part or in whole, to a company based within the United States. A call answering partner can help supplement your existing model – whether it’s you answering all those calls on your own, or an in-house receptionist working 9-5, for example.

You’d still have someone booking appointments in your calendar and populating your sales software with warm leads. But, by paying only for time spent on calls – and not time spent waiting for calls – there’s a good chance your overhead would decrease.

To make the most of opportunities ahead, your business plan must include world-class customer service. Answered phone calls become jobs booked, jobs booked become lifelong customer opportunities. But the cost and sustainability of this process must be well managed.

If you’re not sure where to begin, AnswerForce can help.

Based across the United States, our highly skilled receptionists can help answer calls to your business, day or night. We operate 24/7, 365 days a year, so you don’t have to.

Our model is proven, with more than 50 million calls answered since 2007, and 95% of these within four rings or fewer.

Working from their home offices, the team of AnswerForce virtual receptionists (answerforce.com/virtual-receptionist) enables you to focus on other critical tasks and opportunities. This model provides peace of mind that your business will always be contactable, while consistently delivering a great customer experience.

In addition to 5-star call answering and live chat, all AnswerForce plans include:

  • Appointment booking
  • Bilingual call answering
  • Outbound lead follow-up
  • Team collaboration software
  • Video conferencing

As the country continues to rebuild post-pandemic, electrical workers will be there first, lighting the way so that everything else can follow. And as you do, AnswerForce can help keep you where you need to be: on the job at hand, with a great team backing you up.

Richard Taylor is an award-winning writer and marketing specialist with a decade of experience in connecting people to businesses by telling their stories. He manages editorial, trade,and franchise partnerships for 24/7 call answering specialists AnswerForce, and is a twice-published author. He lives just outside Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife, son, and English working cocker spaniel.

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